Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth

Delegates from the organization will vote today on lifting a ban on gay scouts, but not on gay leaders

By Katie McDonough

Published May 23, 2013 12:44PM (EDT)


Delegates from the Boy Scouts of America's National Council will gather on Thursday to vote on the organization's long-standing ban on gay scouts, and protesters on both sides of the debate assembled on Wednesday to make their voices heard in advance of the secret ballot.

But, as the New York Times reports, the controversy over the inclusion (or, possibly, the continued exclusion) of gay scouts isn't likely to die down after the final ballot is cast:

Last week the Connecticut Yankee Council promised it would defy national policy in either case, saying it intended to accept gay leaders and would be “open to all youths and adults who subscribe to the values of the Scout Oath and Law regardless of their personal sexual orientation.”

The vote Thursday is expected to be close. Prospects for passage improved when the Mormon Church, the largest single sponsor of scout units, indicated support for limited change, and the Roman Catholic Church, another major sponsor, also said that it would not abandon scouting so long as any new policy applied to youths and not leaders.

Glaad, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and other rights groups as well as internal advocates said that allowing openly gay youths would be a step in the right direction, but only that. They vowed to continue with a public campaign against any discrimination.

Evangelical conservatives, the public spearhead of opposition, said that even the limited opening being voted on would expose youths to immoral behavior and pro-gay politics, ruining a rare bastion of traditional America.

The Thursday vote will only decide whether to allow gay scouts to serve openly in the organization, and will have no bearing on the ban on gay leaders. The problem with this partial approach to ending a discriminatory policy is abundantly clear to both sides, as the Times notes: "Those on both sides predict that once gay scouts are allowed, the Scouts will soon be forced to allow gay leaders, too, whether by lawsuits or the simple lack of logic in forcing a gay Eagle Scout to quit the day he turns 18."

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Boy Scouts Boy Scouts Of America Conservatives Gay Rights Lgbt Rights Progressives Religion Republicans